The Story Of Rhodopis

Long ago in the land of Egypt, where the green water of the Nile River flows into the blue water of the Mediterranean Sea, lived a young maiden named Rhodopis. Rhodopis was born in Greece but was kidnapped by pirates and carried to Egypt, where she was sold as a slave.

Her master was a kind old man who spent most of his time sleeping under a tree, but all the other servant girls in the house mocked at her because she was different. Their hair was straight and black while hers was golden and curly. They had brown eyes and she had green. Their skin had the colour of copper while Rhodopis's skin was very pale and got sunburnt easily and, for that reason, they called her Rosy Rhodopis. They also made her work all day. "Go to the river and wash the clothes," they shouted at her. And "mend my robe," "bake the bread," and so on.

Rhodopis had no friends; only the animals. She had trained the birds to eat from her hand, a monkey to sit on her shoulder, and the old hippopotamus would slide up on the bank out of the mud to be closer to her. At the end of the day, if she wasn't too tired, she would go down to the river to be with her animal friends and, if she had any energy left, she would dance and sing for them.

One evening, as she was dancing, the old man woke from his sleep and watched as she danced. He admired her dancing and felt that one so talented should not be without shoes. He ordered her a special pair of slippers. The shoes were gilded with rose-red gold and the soles were leather. Now the servant girls really disliked her, for they were jealous of her beautiful slippers.

One day news came that the Pharaoh was in Memphis and all in the kingdom were invited. Oh, how Rhodopis wanted to go, for she knew there would be dancing, singing, and lots of wonderful food. But it was impossible because she was a slave.

The girls wanted to wear their finest clothes and they gave Rhodopis even more work to do. As she was washing the clothes in the river she sang a sad little song--"wash the linen, weed the garden, grind the grain." The hippopotamus grew tired of this song and went back into the river with a big splash. The splashing of the water wet Rhodopis's slippers. She took them off and put them in the sun to dry.

Then a falcon came down, snatched one of her slippers, and flew away with it. Rhodopis did not dare say anything to anybody because she knew that the falcon was the god Horus. She took the slipper she had left and hid it in her tunic.

Very near that place, in Memphis, The Pharaoh Amasis, was sitting on his throne receiving all is subjects but feeling very bored. He much preferred to be riding across the desert in his chariot. Suddenly, the falcon swooped down and dropped the rose-red golden slipper in front of him.

Taking it as a sign from the god Horus, he ordered that all maidens in Egypt must try on the slipper, and the owner of the slipper would be his queen. All the young girls visiting him in Memphis tried it on, but it would not suit any of them. Then he decided to travel up the Nile stopping at every village so that maidens could try on the slipper.

As the ship arrived at the home of Rhodopis all heard the sounds of the gong and the trumpets, and the girls ran to try on the shoe while Rhodopis hid in the rushes. When the girls saw the shoe they recognized it as Rhodopis's slipper but they said nothing and still tried to force their feet into the slipper.

The Pharaoh saw Rhodopis hiding in the rushes and asked her to try on the slipper. She slid her tiny foot into the slipper and then pulled the other from her tunic. The Pharaoh said that she would be his queen. The servant girls cried out that she was a slave and not even Egyptian, but the Pharaoh answered "She is the most Egyptian of all...for her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus, and her skin the pink of a lotus flower."

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